‘We get it’ say Truss and Kwarteng on their tax cuts U-turn - let’s unpack that

The prime minister and chancellor both tweeted the same three words this morning after their U-turn on tax cuts. But ‘we get it’ sounds like they don’t, in fact, get it.

‘We get it’ - Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss both “get it”‘We get it’ - Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss both “get it”
‘We get it’ - Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss both “get it”

Given the chaotic nature of their decision-making, it’s hard to say how much of Downing Street comms is rehearsed and focus-grouped these days.

But since Liz Truss, in a break from tradition, now has not one but two directors of communications - Adam Jones (political) and Simon McGee (government) - it would be safe to assume that they at least check the tweets before they go out.

This morning we got a tweeted statement from chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng that was reminiscent of one of those Notes app apologies from celebrities desperately trying to un-cancel themselves, as The Scotsman’s Westminster correspondent Alex Brown pointed out.

What most pundits have highlighted is the use of the word “distraction”. A slight understatement, and pretty offensive to the notion that those of us outside of the No 10/11 3D chess sessions can only focus our attentions on one policy at a time.

How dare we ignore all of the great ‘growth plan’ stuff and obsess over that tiny detail, that “distraction” about abolishing the top 45p rate of tax.

But what’s also telling is the use of those three words, “we get it”, which introduced Kwarteng’s non-apologetic reverse-ferret.

It was a phrase repeated word-for-word by Truss in her own retweet of her chancellor. “We get it, and we have listened.”

“We get it”. They probably think it sounds emphatic. Confident, relatable, simple. The lingo of the common man and woman of Britain.

It’s another one of those three-word slogans that the Johnson government paid PR agencies literally thousands of pounds to come up with: “Get Brexit Done”, “Build Back Better”, “Hands Face Space”.

It might be direct, but “we get it” also has undertones of petulance. It’s like what sterotypical teens like Kevin and Perry might have said to the oldies nagging them to tidy their room before slamming the door and turning back to Fortnite - or in Kevin and Perry’s case, Fifa 96. “Yeah mum, we get it.”

It betrays a sense that the rest of us - and by ‘us’, that’s everyone in the UK who’s not the current prime minister or chancellor of the exchequer - are the boring, sensible ones with all our boring, sensible rules and regulations. “We get it, you’ve caught us out. I guess we will play by the rules if we have to.”

Both Truss and Kwarteng have speeches to make in the coming days in which they’ll need to somehow persuade both the party (ahem) faithful, and the wider country, why they should still be trusted to run the economy.

They’ll have to do a lot better than ‘we get it’.